philosophy of creativity - Music vs. Music Theory - Ignore the Gatekeepers!

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bxbrkrz
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Post 16 Aug 2020

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Gatekeeper is ON
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BRIGGS
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Post 16 Aug 2020

bxbrkrz wrote:
16 Aug 2020
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Gatekeeper is ON
:lol:

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guitfnky
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Post 16 Aug 2020

bxbrkrz wrote:
16 Aug 2020
selig wrote:
16 Aug 2020


I used to believe that, but I fundamentally misunderstood one thing: Classical music theory only teaches ONE (of many) sets of rules, the rules for European classical music. In that context, if you don't want to sound like European classical music, then most definitely break those rules!

My own personal story involved believing I needed to study theory in order to learn to compose. But in my case, exactly the opposite occurred - the more theory I learned, the less music I was able to compose. In my case this was because I was trying to compose "by the rules", asking myself what chord should come next according to music theory rules. This led to some incredibly boring music, music that even "I" could not enjoy listening to the next day. And I logically assumed that if "I" didn't enjoy listening to my music, how could I ask or expect anyone else to do so?

The solution was to ditch theory for composition, which quickly led to a bulk dump of material that eventually became the basis for my first (1986) album.

That being said, if you want to analyze and chart existing music, a little theory is helpful. I see theory more as a written form of music used to communicate most Western style from one musician to another. In that light it is helpful, and in that light it is best to follow the rules, since the person reading what you wrote down has certain expectations based on said rules.

But for being "creative" and exploring your own sound, I really see little use for the theory I've learned, with one possible exception: Interval/chord identification. When I "hear" a melody/chord in my head, I find it easy to play it on a keyboard more accurately because I have really good interval training (the only part of music theory I was actually any good at). I can "speak" the intervals of a melody, which is to say I can identify the first step is a major 6th up from the first note, the second is a major 2nd down, etc.

Otherwise, music theory was more of a stumbling block to me than a compositional aid, but luckily I ditched it early on and have never looked back!
You set yourself free from the rules. You became yourself.

We are still defined within a Western type of music, by our inspiration, and by the tools we use to create our music. This is true for 90% of the artists here on RT.
Universally though, anyone's perspective is always coming from a cultural origin. Some of us are blessed. Some of us come from a multicultural background, influences, languages, etc. That's why I shared the videos from other cultures. No metronome, no conductor. A440? They are using different rules, different enough for anyone to tell the differences between cultures. To them breaking the rules would mean playing some funk guitar riffs, via an amp, plugged to an electrical outlet.

The OP talks about the "gatekeepers". He plays in a band. The band plays in a club. People expect a style of music, but maybe not gamelan for example. Maybe it is too bad. It would be fun and very creative, but most of us are locked on road rails. Paying bills, keeping our clients happy, etc. The exact reversal is true if you were a musician leaving San Fran, starting a new life somewhere in Indonesia.
New rules. New opportunities to break some rules. And new gatekeepers (mostly ourselves).

Fun thread.
Thanks OP!
:puf_smile:



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that’s a good point. there will always be limitations—scope of experience—which is what you’re talking about here—is one. another might be your proficiency with the instrument. another might be how imaginative you are in general.

the cool thing about all that stuff is that anyone can improve/push past their current boundaries in all of those areas with practice and exposure to different music. of course there will always be an upper limit, but you can go farther than where you currently are with a bit of practice. and you can do all that without a lick of theory.

and you’re right; I’m definitely limited by what is, at this point, a choice to remain within the standard western 12-tone system. I’m still constantly finding ways to be creative within that framework, and recognize that I couldn’t possibly explore all there is that’s out there to find. that’s the fun part—listening to other people’s music for enjoyment, and to find inspiration for my own.

I’ve been listening to a bit of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard lately, and they manage to explore lots of the kinds of things you mention, yet within a rock aesthetic. it’s that kind of cool stuff that keeps me interested and always pressing forward. I wonder how much microtonal theory they learned before writing some of it. maybe a lot, and maybe none. it doesn’t matter though, because it’s fun to listen to!

sources of inspiration are everywhere. :)
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moggadeet
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Post 16 Aug 2020

Knowing theory is just a big advantage for me: without knowing voice leading rules you must rely on your ear to resolve chord notes correctly. Without knowing augmented or diminished chords you might have trouble finding a passing chord between two chords you have in place. Instead of doing trial and error to look for a substitution to a dominant chord I just swap it with its tritone substitutuion. If I want to sound even more energetic than a major scale I borrow chords from the lydian mode, I do not have to try around if I do not have the time to experiment.

But the question is a false dichotomy in my eyes: knowing the theory does not mean that one must always abide to it.

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Timmy Crowne
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Post 17 Aug 2020

Music theory is like a cookbook; you don’t need it, but it can give you some tasty ideas.

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guitfnky
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Post 17 Aug 2020

Timmy Crowne wrote:
17 Aug 2020
Music theory is like a cookbook; you don’t need it, but it can give you some tasty ideas.
well-said—totally agree!
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guitfnky
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Post 17 Aug 2020

moggadeet wrote:
16 Aug 2020
Knowing theory is just a big advantage for me: without knowing voice leading rules you must rely on your ear to resolve chord notes correctly. Without knowing augmented or diminished chords you might have trouble finding a passing chord between two chords you have in place. Instead of doing trial and error to look for a substitution to a dominant chord I just swap it with its tritone substitutuion. If I want to sound even more energetic than a major scale I borrow chords from the lydian mode, I do not have to try around if I do not have the time to experiment.

But the question is a false dichotomy in my eyes: knowing the theory does not mean that one must always abide to it.
yours is a great example of why coming at composing with a background in music theory can be extremely useful. I’m not advocating that people don’t learn music theory; I’m only pointing out that not knowing music theory should never be seen as a barrier to composing music.

to your second point, I agree, to a large degree. the only thing I’d add is that while knowing theory doesn’t mean you have to follow those “rules”, it doesn’t account for human psychology. if we’re aware of a set of rules (especially if we study them heavily, to the point of internalizing them), it’s incredibly easy to fall into the trap of following them without thinking. there’s a kind of autopilot that can take over, which can be great for comfortable (safe) improvisation, but not necessarily so good for composing outside of the box.

that said, it’s different for everyone. whatever gets someone in the door, so to speak. I just think it’s a shame when some musicians try to talk down to others for not following the same path that’s worked for them. there’s no need to discourage—that’s the main thing I wanted to get across with this vid. :)
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TritoneAddiction
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Post 17 Aug 2020

I agree, great music can be made and (has been made) without any theoretical knowledge. It's useful, but not necessary. I certainly wouldn't tell someone to not create music just because they didn't know any theory.
Some of my favorite artists has a pretty poor grasp of music theory, but they've still done some amazing music.

But for my own personal music making experience, learning about scales/modes, chords and just a basic knowledge in music theory in general has helped tremendously. Especially learning different scales. Or just learning which scale/mode conveys a certain type of emotion/feel. But perhaps even more importantly learning which scales/note choices I like.

Without the theoretical knowledge many of my songs would never exist. One of my own personal favorites from an old electronic metal project, switches between diminished scale, whole tone scale and just cromatic atonal weirdness. There's just no way I would be able to come up with these things on my own.

I don't look at music theory as a rule book that needs to be followed. I view it more like a collection of well tried ideas that can help me out.
I could be wrong but my guess is that people who are very logical, sciency in nature can get stuck in the "have to follow the rules" mentality. I'm the opposite, I suck at the logical stuff, so for me learning theory has only expanded my palette.

I do find it a bit ironic that some of the "I don't want to learn theory" people that I've heard over the years, did write within all the "rules". They just didn't know it. "I don't want to follow the rules" some of them say. And I'm listening to their music and thinking, well you just did.
Last edited by TritoneAddiction on 17 Aug 2020, edited 1 time in total.

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rgdaniel
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Post 17 Aug 2020

I've always joked that not knowing what I was doing was very liberating. Half-joking, I guess. I do try to learn as I go, knowledge is power, etc., but I don't let lack of hardcore theory chops prevent me from just poking around in search of what sounds good. I think kids should be encouraged to soak up as much theory as they can while their brains are still sponges, but my old brain's a bit calcified for that kind of heavy lifting...

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BRIGGS
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Post 17 Aug 2020

'Music Theory' is a misnomer... More like 'Music Facts'.

Anyway....Demonstration... always holds more weight.

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guitfnky
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Post 17 Aug 2020

BRIGGS wrote:
17 Aug 2020
'Music Theory' is a misnomer... More like 'Music Facts'.

Anyway....Demonstration... always holds more weight.

and what is this supposed to demonstrate? that some people who know music theory can compose their own music? we already know that. it's not in dispute.
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guitfnky
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Post 17 Aug 2020

TritoneAddiction wrote:
17 Aug 2020
Without the theoretical knowledge many of my songs would never exist. One of my own personal favorites from an old electronic metal project, switches between diminished scale, whole tone scale and just cromatic atonal weirdness. There's just no way I would be able to come up with these things on my own.
this is the coolest thing about music--for you, many of your songs wouldn't exist without theory, and for others, many of our songs wouldn't exist WITH theory. there's no one-size-fits-all approach. it's why there's such a wide variety of music out there. :)
TritoneAddiction wrote:
17 Aug 2020
I could be wrong but my guess is that people who are very logical, sciency in nature can get stuck in the "have to follow the rules" mentality. I'm the opposite, I suck at the logical stuff, so for me learning theory has only expanded my palette.
oddly enough, I'm a very analytical person, which is partially why I've known for so long that I didn't need to learn theory in order to make good music. from a logical standpoint, there truly are no rules (if you can break them, then from a practical standpoint they don't exist). like I say in the video, theory is mainly a mode of communication, and a way to analyze and understand the music that's been made. for me, I don't need to understand the nuts and bolts of music in order to enjoy it, so there's little need for me to understand it at an analytical level. but all that said, I definitely see your point, and it's probably pretty true most of the time.
TritoneAddiction wrote:
17 Aug 2020
I do find it a bit ironic that some of the "I don't want to learn theory" people that I've heard over the years, did write within all the "rules". They just didn't know it. "I don't want to follow the rules" some of them say. And I'm listening to their music and thinking, well you just did.
this is really the fundamental philosophical question about music theory (which I touched on above)--one could argue they WEREN'T following the rules; they just had enough innate understanding of what's expected (and presumably what they wanted to sound like) that they know how to write within that framework, without knowing anything about the explicit ruleset. it's a lot like how I learned grammar...I couldn't tell you what a subordinate clause is, but I'm quite sure I've used them successfully countless times (probably even here in this post). I learned what looks and feels right, and because of it, I can write well. the same is possible with music.
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guitfnky
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Post 17 Aug 2020

rgdaniel wrote:
17 Aug 2020
I've always joked that not knowing what I was doing was very liberating. Half-joking, I guess. I do try to learn as I go, knowledge is power, etc., but I don't let lack of hardcore theory chops prevent me from just poking around in search of what sounds good. I think kids should be encouraged to soak up as much theory as they can while their brains are still sponges, but my old brain's a bit calcified for that kind of heavy lifting...
it can be very liberating! and I think that's a really good approach--don't eschew theory, because that knowledge often IS very useful. but to my mind, 'poking around in search of what sounds good' is about as good an explanation of the creative process as I can think of. just don't let pursuit of knowledge get in the way of making real music.
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enossified
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Post 17 Aug 2020

That's a pretty whacked video. He says you don't need anything but then he says, well you do need a little knowledge and then he mentions communication with other musicians. Then he says if you wnat to play jazz you probably need to know theory. He even talks about "muddling through" learning songs his band plays.

So what's his point?

Yes, if you just want to have fun making music by yourself and for yourself, go for it. With today's tools, particularly since the arrival of Ableton Live, given enough sample loops anyone can put together basic songs with no knowledge of why it sounds like it does. Copy recordings you like by ear for a while and eventually you will learn how to make music even if you can't describe it to anyone else.

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guitfnky
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Post 17 Aug 2020

enossified wrote:
17 Aug 2020
That's a pretty whacked video. He says you don't need anything but then he says, well you do need a little knowledge and then he mentions communication with other musicians. Then he says if you wnat to play jazz you probably need to know theory. He even talks about "muddling through" learning songs his band plays.

So what's his point?

Yes, if you just want to have fun making music by yourself and for yourself, go for it. With today's tools, particularly since the arrival of Ableton Live, given enough sample loops anyone can put together basic songs with no knowledge of why it sounds like it does. Copy recordings you like by ear for a while and eventually you will learn how to make music even if you can't describe it to anyone else.
so you DO get the point, then. 😏
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Post 17 Aug 2020

enossified wrote:
17 Aug 2020
That's a pretty whacked video.
I loled :lol:
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guitfnky
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Post 17 Aug 2020

BRIGGS wrote:
17 Aug 2020
enossified wrote:
17 Aug 2020
That's a pretty whacked video.
I loled :lol:
if there's anything in particular that's not making sense, I'd be happy to explain. I recognize that sometimes doing videos off-the-cuff like this isn't always going to be as clear as I might like. others seem to get what I'm saying, but that doesn't mean everyone will.
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Post 17 Aug 2020

Philosophy haters gonna philosophy hate.

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Post 19 Aug 2020

the fallacy here is in the title. Let's suppose you're a musical genius who has never had a need for it and you're writing "your own good music".

1. How did you realize you like music? How did you find out what it is?
By having listened to music. Probably an extract of that very same "CMT". This gave you a preconception of what music is. At this point you are already biased and your understanding of music is BASED on CMT.

2. How did you manage to differentiate "good" music from "bad" music?
You have listened to a bunch and it interconnected your neurons, which triggered various amounts of dopamine released in your brain, more = good, less = bad.

3. How do you know your music is good?
Because you have a reference point. Your X is better than Y. This means you have created a set of rules for yourself of what works and what doesn't for your dopamine pathways - congratulations, you have created Music Theory for yourself and became your own Gatekeeper. Hopefully, you have found a few modes of provoking this dopamine release universally for others.

4. What is "Conventional Music Theory" in this regard?
It is a set of these very same pathways of interconnecting the listeners' neurons and releasing hormones in their brains. Some of the more advanced are very counter-intuitive and would take a lifetime for a single person to discover. You can pick and choose from the accumulated list, or not use them at all, but realize that equates to rejecting the accumulated knowledge of humanity.

I'm not saying you should feel bad about your ignorance, but you sure as hell shouldn't be proud of it. Relying on personal intelligence over the collective is what lower primates do.

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Post 19 Aug 2020

EdwardKiy wrote:
19 Aug 2020
the fallacy here is in the title. Let's suppose you're a musical genius who has never had a need for it and you're writing "your own good music".

1. How did you realize you like music? How did you find out what it is?
By having listened to music. Probably an extract of that very same "CMT". This gave you a preconception of what music is. At this point you are already biased and your understanding of music is BASED on CMT.

2. How did you manage to differentiate "good" music from "bad" music?
You have listened to a bunch and it interconnected your neurons, which triggered various amounts of dopamine released in your brain, more = good, less = bad.

3. How do you know your music is good?
Because you have a reference point. Your X is better than Y. This means you have created a set of rules for yourself of what works and what doesn't for your dopamine pathways - congratulations, you have created Music Theory for yourself and became your own Gatekeeper. Hopefully, you have found a few modes of provoking this dopamine release universally for others.

4. What is "Conventional Music Theory" in this regard?
It is a set of these very same pathways of interconnecting the listeners' neurons and releasing hormones in their brains. Some of the more advanced are very counter-intuitive and would take a lifetime for a single person to discover. You can pick and choose from the accumulated list, or not use them at all, but realize that equates to rejecting the accumulated knowledge of humanity.

I'm not saying you should feel bad about your ignorance, but you sure as hell shouldn't be proud of it. Relying on personal intelligence over the collective is what lower primates do.
1--these questions aren't relevant. I'm not talking about bias in the video. I've already acknowledged here that one's creations are necessarily influenced by what we've been exposed to, whether consciously or unconsciously.

2--again, not relevant. how *I* define something doesn't matter--at least not to anyone but myself. the only question is what does the individual doing the creating think?

3--I know it's good because I enjoy it. I don't know that anyone else does, unless they tell me. not sure what your point is, here. but you do make an interesting observation; YOU become your own gatekeeper. I'd argue that's as it should be--you're the only one who should be doing that. you shouldn't allow anyone else to dictate to you how you should create your art, or what thresholds you must meet before you're ready to do so.

4--I don't know why you're capitalizing that and putting it into quotes. when I say 'music theory' I mean *any* theoretical discussion/analysis of why certain notes work with other notes, etc. I'm not talking only about western 12-tone theory, if that's what you're getting at.

who said I'm proud of not knowing theory? I sure didn't. as for ignorance, I'd argue it's equally ignorant to dismiss the indisputable reality that one doesn't need to know any music theory whatsoever to make music.
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guitfnky
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Post 19 Aug 2020

to put that last point more clearly, I’d rather be proud of my creative output than my knowledge of theory.
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Post 19 Aug 2020

guitfnky wrote:
19 Aug 2020

1--these questions aren't relevant. I'm not talking about bias in the video. I've already acknowledged here that one's creations are necessarily influenced by what we've been exposed to, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Then how are these questions irrelevant? They expose the fundamentals of your understanding of the matter.
guitfnky wrote:
19 Aug 2020

2--again, not relevant. how *I* define something doesn't matter--at least not to anyone but myself. the only question is what does the individual doing the creating think?
The way you define something as good or bad in principle is the exact same for any other person with no neuro-humoral disfunctions, i.e. psychopaths, and what the individual doing the creating thinks is only relevant to a point where it doesn't get in the way of his creation's recipient. Your new album would be a very good example of this.
guitfnky wrote:
19 Aug 2020

3--I know it's good because I enjoy it. I don't know that anyone else does, unless they tell me. not sure what your point is, here. but you do make an interesting observation; YOU become your own gatekeeper. I'd argue that's as it should be--you're the only one who should be doing that. you shouldn't allow anyone else to dictate to you how you should create your art, or what thresholds you must meet before you're ready to do so.
Not letting anything dictate anything to you is the definition of emotional maturity, so best not even go there. Knowing musical theory doesn't dictate anything to you, it only enhances your output, provided you have overcome the realization of how little you know - that is the only negative aspect of any knowledge, which is coincidentally a driving force.
guitfnky wrote:
19 Aug 2020
4--I don't know why you're capitalizing that and putting it into quotes. when I say 'music theory' I mean *any* theoretical discussion/analysis of why certain notes work with other notes, etc. I'm not talking only about western 12-tone theory, if that's what you're getting at.

Yes, all of those things you've mentioned are pathways to bringing pleasure (= tools of transferring your emotions/knowledge/outlook) to the listener and therefore matter.
guitfnky wrote:
19 Aug 2020
who said I'm proud of not knowing theory? I sure didn't. as for ignorance, I'd argue it's equally ignorant to dismiss the indisputable reality that one doesn't need to know any music theory whatsoever to make music.
You see, this is why I wrote the first two points. You could get what I'm saying there, but here goes:

Music needs harmony, rhythm and timbre to be music. If it doesn't have all 3, then it's just sound. Sounds a bit like a set of rules, wouldn't you say? These are rules discovered through trial and error by cavemen that were mirrored with a reward in our neural circuitry as evidence of them being correct. Before that there was only sound. It's not a chicken and egg situation.

This "indisputable reality" of yours is complete nonsense, because it doesn't matter where you learn your music theory - with a teacher, in a book, or from listening to variations of it in your favorite pieces of music and having those neural pathways burned into your brain by simply listening (to the supposedly "self-taught geniuses" who have mastered their craft by copying and adding to someone else before them, like Elton John, or Armstrong or whatever). If you are given a guitar, but you haven't even heard a single piece of music in your life, there is 0 chance you can make anything worthwhile to the listener.

There is no such thing as a "self-made man". This is like the biggest lie ever. If you don't get something from your family, then you just get it from another family, other people. If you learn something on youtube - it doesn't make you self-taught, it's that person on youtube who taught you. You have to wash your hands and respect the people who came before you, because everything we have now is an accumulated effort.

What is infuriating about you is how you are very likable and intelligent and willfully ignorant at the same time. This thread wasn't the first time you've been told to read a fucking book, because you lack perspective to ask the right questions.

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Post 19 Aug 2020

I wonder if these knew any music theory?

VST 2.4 MIDI It's definitely on the list of todos
What MIDI tools are you itching to use

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bxbrkrz
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Post 19 Aug 2020

I stopped being afraid of gatekeepers when I realized they were all the same.
The same monsters who hid under my bed when I was a kid.
They only have power if you believe they exist.
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selig
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Post 19 Aug 2020

Timmy Crowne wrote:
17 Aug 2020
Music theory is like a cookbook; you don’t need it, but it can give you some tasty ideas.
Agreed - great for recreating things that already exist, and to a smaller degree for understanding how they are put together.

I feel we all work differently. I found many key aspects of theory to be counter creative. Others don't seem to be able to reach their full creative potential without it. Best bet is for each person to see what works best for them - there's no way of knowing until you try!
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